Mike is recovering from a debilitating illness, his recovery confines him to his house. Fortunately, he has his old terrier Sammy for company, but still, it’s pretty boring with nothing but time on his hands, Sammy is bored too. One day Mike’s daughter is visiting with his 2-year-old granddaughter, and they leave behind a plastic stacking rings toy. Mike sees Sammy running around with one of the rings in his mouth playing, and that gives Mike an idea. What if he could train Sammy to put the colorful plastic rings on the toy post, in order from largest to smallest? It would be something to do and think of how delighted Mike’s granddaughter will be when she next comes to visit and sees Sammy has mastered her toy game!
This is not an easy trick for a dog to learn and will take a significant amount of time to teach a dog. An older dog that has a lower energy level may not be particularly motivated to learn the trick, so getting an older dog engaged with the use of food, treats, and a clicker will be necessary. The good news is, that while stacking rings can be mentally challenging, it is not particularly physically challenging, so even an older dog with a health issue is capable of doing it. In fact, it is a great activity for an older dog with physical limitations as it engages his mind, gives him a sense of accomplishment, and a task to be successful at when other previously learned tasks may not be realistic for an older dog. Working in multiple short sessions and keeping energy level and interest in your older dog high will be key to success.
A dog can be taught to stack a series of rings on a pole. Usually, a children’s plastic toy is used consisting or a plastic pole on a stand that accommodates a series of progressively smaller, brightly colored rings that must be placed in order on the pole for all the rings to fit. Using color as a guide for your dog to differentiate rings may not be useful, as dogs do not have accurate color discernment. Your dog will need to be taught to distinguish rings and order based on size. A makeshift ring game can be made with a paper towel tube and homemade rings.
Your dog will need to pick up rings in his mouth, in order if necessary, and carry them to the stacking pole. The dog will then need to center the hole of the ring over the stacking pole and release each ring so that it falls over the pole and comes to rest. This trick is fairly complex, involving several tasks and your dog will need to learn that ring size and order are important to complete. It will take significant time and energy on your part and your dog's to learn. An older dog may need motivation to stay on task. While a puppy may get excited and treat this as play, an older dog may be more interested in working for a tangible reward, such as a food treat. The good news is that this trick is not physically demanding and even an older dog should be capable of performing it. Also, an older dog may have more patience and focus than a younger dog, which may give him an advantage.
You will need lots of time and treats to teach this trick. It is a fairly complex series of behaviors and will need to be broken down into several steps that can be sequenced in order to successfully complete. Be prepared to spend many sessions accomplishing this trick. You can use a children's plastic ring stacking toy, or make your own with wood or a paper towel tube and improvised rings. Have fun!